Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Widely considered as superior to its predecessor, Bride of Frankenstein is one of those movies that is probably as great as many will tell you and is not nearly the dreary, serious meditation on the folly of playing God you may have been lead to believe nor is it an old and creaky monster movie that modern audiences will yawn during. In fact, watching this, I was reminded of the Re-Animator movies, what with the off-hand treatment of the Monster and the various shenanigans he gets into along the way.

So what happened to Henry Frankenstein? Did he survive that brutal windmill ride? Of course he did! He even got hauled back to his castle or wherever mad scientists recuperate between experiments.

It’s pretty boring being laid off like that, so everyone is glad when this wild-haired freak named Dr. Pretorious enters the scene. Pretorious is the impetus for everything that is to follow and somehow he has heard about Frankenstein and his Monster.

He tells Henry that he’s been very impressed with his work and that he also has been hard at work on a similar project, but he’s encountered one little problem: the people he’s created are only eight inches high!

Henry is amazed and somewhat disgusted by this, saying that what Pretorious is doing is black magic, not science like his big green dummy was. Pretorious pooh-poohs Henry’s concerns saying that he grew them from some type of culture. More importantly though, he wants Henry to help super-size them!

Bride of Frankenstein 1

What about the Monster? The Monster isn’t quite the lumbering halfwit we’ve suspected as he realizes that a girl flailing about in the water isn’t a good thing and this time (he didn’t throw her in there, she was startled into falling into the water) he goes in after her and pulls her to safety. But a couple of villagers happen by and sound the alarm!

The angry mob is quickly reformed to mete out justice, Bavarian style. Following his inevitable escape, the Monster heads off into the countryside where we follow him on his journey of self discovery.

What follows is an alternately amusing and moving series of events that serves to flesh out and humanize the Monster. He meets up with an old, blind hermit living in the woods. Since he is blind, the hermit doesn’t fear the Monster.

The hermit gives him food and wine, teaching him goody-goody ideas like “friend” and “cigar,” and holding the Monster as he naps. (Is this really happening? What happened to the dude that punted Henry off the old abandoned windmill?)

Bride of Frankenstein 2

There’s really only one problem with their relationship and that of course is the old Monster bugaboo, fire. Fire bad! No, fire good because you can light your stogies with it!

Soon the Monster is puffing like one of the monied chaps at a sporting club and he’s talking about what a friend this guy is to him and then two members of the Angry Mob show up and they see the old blind guy, then they get a gander at the nicotine addicted Monster!

The Monster again has to go on the run and runs smack dab into Pretorious. After the Monster asks if he can bum a smoke, Pretorious sees that the Monster can be used to “encourage” Henry to go along with his plan to make another monster and they both head off to harass Henry some more.

The Bride gets made, cranked up on a platform during a big storm and brought to life. The doctors try to make a love connection between the Bride and the Monster, but they don’t hit it off. She thinks he’s a big, grody, creep! So how did the date end? Watch it and find out yourself!

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If the first movie detailed the Monster’s difficult birth, than this one details his tortured adolescence. The Monster is learning, has some bit of self-confidence (he’s bossing Henry around telling him to finish the Bride), and has discovered girls. He’s experimenting with drugs and alcohol, but he’s obviously far from mature, easily rattled by events, and prone to rash actions.

Frankenstein was a straight out horror tale with all the attendant themes about the hubris of man doing really dumb science experiments, but with only hints at the depth the Monster possessed. Bride of Frankenstein though is a success because it steers completely away from all that, substituting healthy doses of dark comedy and a surreal quality (tiny people in jars?) that made you wonder if it wasn’t based on the works of the Brothers Grimm, rather than that of Shelley.

If your perception of the Frankenstein monster was that he was a big oaf that lumbered around grunting and scowling, be prepared to be amazed by what you see here. (He smiles! He drinks! He takes part in a kidnapping plot!)

And in the end, the Monster is the smartest character in the movie, finally realizing that this is not his world and he was never meant to exist in it. Studio executives would force him to return many more times, but it wouldn’t be this tormented Monster that knew more than his human creators. That Monster is gone forever after this picture. In the succeeding films, there would only be what the world now knows as the mindless thug. The thing the world mistakenly calls Frankenstein, which ultimately is more an insult to the Monster than it is to his creator.

© 2015 MonsterHunter

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